Friday, May 09, 2008

A ‘New Year’ Baby Expected

I suppose this is one way to make the never-ending announcements of "Ooh we're expecting a brand new bundle of joy! How exciting is that!" fresh and new. Unless you're telling people who don't know you, and the whole conversation is new for them. Then you get to shock them just a snit when you respond to the question "Congratulations! Is this your first?" with "Actually, it's number 18!"

Uncomfortable silence ensues.

So yeah, congrats to Michelle Duggar. I hope the pregnancy goes well, and you have a healthy baby to add to your brood. I hope that you give this one a decent name and break the evil J Theme you have going on there. I hope that the news truly makes you and your family happy. But I feel like I should be consoling the older daughters, since they'll be the ones caring for the new blessing, or at least raising the older babies while you raise this one.

Oh, don't get your skivvies in a wad, dear readers. You can't tell me you're surprised at the sentiment. I firmly believe that every child is a blessing, but not every family they are born into is one whether the family can afford the baby or not. We live in a world where having three children is considered a "large family." If you have more than that, people look at you as if you need to be educated on birth control. It's considered to be selfish to have child after child after child, especially if the family is low-income and the family not only has to go on government assistance, but was already on government assistance when discovering the pregnancy/ies. And yet… when there's a family that CAN afford "all those children" they are still looked down upon as freaks. It's assumed that there must be something wrong intrinsically with the parents, and that it can't be healthy for the children. After all, how much one-on-one attention can either parent really give to every single child that's young enough to need parental care and guidance? How much free time do the children actually have to BE children?

But I'm going to be honest… I don't know that it's those things I have an issue with. As long as every child in ANY large family is loved, given attention, and feels loved and wanted, and is taken good care of, that's all that matters. Yet, I find myself tsking and shaking my head, and cracking a few jokes about the Duggar's latest announcement. I have to admit that I'm not quite sure why. I KNOW that these children are financially cared for. Daddy Jim Bob makes a butt-load of money with "real estate" (I don't know any more than that, honestly) and the family gets freebies from companies. The family owns a bus, and they like to cut corners where they can such as Michelle making the girls' dresses. I've seen the documentaries of the family, and they seem happy, if not a little crazy. But there's something that just doesn't sit well with me. Maybe it's the publicity. Maybe it's the docu-whoring. Maybe it's the seeming disinterest the family has in modern social issues, knowing that they don't encourage their daughters to attend college and plan to be more than baby making machines. Maybe it's the stereotype of the Born Again Christian having an endless row of children streaming out of the house for a family photo.

There's really no practical reason for so many children. Within the past couple of centuries, it's become less necessary for working families to have several children. Families don't need the farm hands, even if they're an agricultural family, because let's face it… it's more cost effective and healthier to rely on machines to do the labor-intensive jobs that occur on farms. Having more children is associated, these days, with being uneducated or undereducated, dysfunctional, and poor. It becomes hard to swallow when there's a visibly large family that publicly appears healthy and well-cared for financially. We assume that there must be SOMETHING wrong with them. They MUST be dysfunctional in private, right? They MUST have trouble emotionally, and someone MUST have issues with not getting enough time alone with Mommy or Daddy. They MUST be working those kids to the bone, or are too strict because they HAVE to be too strict or risk losing control.

It's difficult for us to believe that a brood that large is controllable, but it seems to me that families centuries ago that had children in the upper teens and even twenties had better control of their children than we do today with "only one or two" kids. Families were more loving and tolerant to each other. Children weren't quite as selfish, or expecting immediate gratification. They learned early on that sharing was good. That hard work was expected. That pitching in to help the family whenever they were asked would be part of their daily lives, and not something that needed constant rewarding. Children actually felt more valued then, while today, if the ego isn't stroked constantly and they are begged by Mommy and Daddy the Friends, then they don't have to do anything they don't WAN to do. God forbid we have anyone do something they don't want to do. God forbid we don't offer choices.

So we look at families like the Duggars and say they're throwbacks and unusual. But maybe that's not such a bad thing.

I bet when you saw the subject line of this entry, you thought I was announcing a new baby in our house.


Momto3LittleFlowers said...

Of course I was thinking it was you that was pregnant!! LOL

I really agree with you... I just pray that God give this children spiritual and mental health.

Allie D. said...

Here I was about to give you a giant congrats and a supportive pat on the back because 4 kids for me is like a recipe for a mental breakdown. Two had me on the way there not so long ago. But that's why I always think that one should only have as many kids as they can handle.

The Duggars, on the other hand, make me want to vomit, and you pretty much covered why I feel that way. I wrote this back when number 17 was born:

Allie D. said...

Actually, click the link. Not sure if it went through on the other post.